Ipsos Corporate Reputation

What Keeps Communicators Awake at Night?

Reputation Council members across the world face a range of business challenges – but what are the biggest issues that keep them awake at night?

24/7 and
fragmented media environment

"You have not only fragmentation but distrust in the media as well, which is making it increasingly difficult to engage and land messages."
"We used to control the information, these days, the information is coming from everywhere. So we play the role of conductor, catalyst."
"The demarcation line between capital markets and the rest of the world is getting more and more porous. Messages for the general public are becoming just as relevant for capital markets, and vice versa."
"We need to deal with a much more informed, empowered and vocal consumer."

Aligning internal teams

"We are a new organisation working with technology, so there aren’t regulations in place around what we do. There is an advocacy role we need to take… Bring the external voice to every business decision that is made and that is the increasing role of corporate communicators."
"Making it understood in-house that corporate and business are now one and the same, that there is no more dichotomy between corporate communications and actual user experience."
"Reputation issues are being included more and more in the due diligence processes for big government tenders. This not only affects us, but also the partners we bring into large projects."
"If you work for a business where the CEO fundamentally doesn’t get or give time to reputation management, it makes the job really hard, whereas if you have that sponsorship from the top, you can achieve a lot more."
"It’s a reputation economy... Marketers don’t get reputation. I think it takes a crisis for people to realise the importance in reputation management."

Employee Engagement

"Engaging and activating employees, because not everyone trusts a CEO, but they trust people like themselves."
"Each individual has become a medium in their own right and a communicator, we need to work particularly hard on associates in the company who are its first spokespersons, first ambassadors, and who, what’s more, can potentially be very powerful."

Fake news, misinformation,
and declining trust in experts

"The main problem is the issue of credibility – how the messages that you are delivering are credible for the different stakeholders."
"Because people don’t really care about what you are trying to communicate with them, they care more about what you are doing and what value you can bring."

Sustainability and purpose

"Society has an expectation that corporates deliver for those communities where we live and work… Local relationships are more important."
"The digital revolution brings many differences of behaviours, very different desires, ways of working, ways to consume information. And this generation has a very clear vision of the absolute need to transform society in terms of sustainability."

Lack of public trust in business

"If I talk to my counterparts in the FTSE 100, they see this anti-capitalist sentiment and there is an anti-business sentiment and there’s a lack of trust that the corporate sector will do the right thing and there’s a very unsophisticated view that it is all about shareholders and we don’t worry about other stakeholders."
"We’re facing the defiance that companies, and particularly large multinationals, can generate among the general public, but through contamination coming from the media, political decision-makers."

Political polarisation

"As a global company, what are the right issues that employees, customers and investors want to see us involved in? The company looks to the communications function to advise on where to take a stand and what are the costs/benefits."
"The turbulent political environment and lack of harmony in society. We’re trying to find our place as a company to remedy that."
"Deteriorating levels of trust in government and a deterioration in the functionality, effectiveness and stability of government. There is uncertainty in the policy environment."

Methodology: 154 interviews conducted with Reputation Council members between 25th June and 12th November 2018.

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The Reputation Council Report 2020: Full Report

Welcome to the latest edition from the Ipsos Reputation Council.

Our fourteenth sitting involves 150 senior communicators from 19 countries - making this a truly international view.

In this report, our Council members explore the newest thinking and practice in corporate reputation management and tell us how they are responding to a changing communications landscape. In a world of constant disruption there has never been a greater need for companies to actively engage with their stakeholders and wider civil society. For many, issues such as climate change, sustainability and social cohesion are no longer climbing the corporate agenda - they have reached its summit.

Indeed, it seems that even ‘hard-headed’ stakeholders such as investors no longer assess the reputation and investment appeal of a company solely through key financial ratios. They want to see evidence of a company’s broader role in society, not least because it is seen as an essential part of any sustainable business model.

We therefore took this opportunity to explore the degree to which Council members felt that the escalation in the importance of sustainability was becoming more pervasive in the corporate environment. We also asked them to highlight industries that were under the sustainability spotlight the most – as well as examples of companies that stood out as being at the cutting edge of best practice.

Many Council members asked us to include a section on communications planning in this year’s report and we were happy to oblige. Our article ‘Communications planning in a disruptive environment’ explores the major elements of the planning process, including timing, key inputs, the degree of distinction between internal and external communications and major challenges the communicator faces – now and in the future.

Part of communications planning is of course setting goals, and the management maxim that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it, which quickly leads us to the topic of data. We were not only interested in the types of data sources Council members used, but also the way in which they integrated their data sources to provide strategic reputation insights.

We also wanted to understand the range of stakeholders Council members engaged with – if they prioritised distinctive groups, created tailored messaging and whether they were specifically targeting social media influencers: and if so, what techniques they used.

Finally, we decided to retain our popular quick-fire section from last year’s report. We asked Council members questions on a variety of subjects, such as the role businesses play, relative to the government, in fixing society’s problems and whether fake news and disinformation pose a material threat to business.

Our thanks to all members for participating in our fourteenth sitting of the Reputation Council report. We hope you enjoy this edition and please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the issues we’ve covered, or if you have any questions about your own communications challenges.


Milorad Ajder
Global Service Line Leader
Corporate Reputation

The Reputation Council Report 2018: Full Report

Welcome to the latest briefing from the Ipsos Reputation Council.

This – our thirteenth sitting – has been the biggest and most international yet, involving 154 senior communicators from 20 countries.

As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, once said: “reputation has a habit of arriving on foot and departing on horseback”. In the past year, a welter of high-profile reputation scandals affecting businesses, their leaders and even whole industry sectors has, once again, focused our minds on the risks and rewards of this powerful but potentially volatile asset.

Some of these scandals have posed a genuine threat to companies’ continued survival or licence to operate. Others have fizzled out. In this edition, we examine how Reputation Council members distinguish between issues which might blow up into a genuine reputation crisis, and others that are just day-to-day turbulence. What indicators or early warning systems can communicators draw on, to help them build resilience?

The technology sector has been wrestling with some unprecedented reputation issues recently. Concerns around privacy, data leaks, advertising practices, AI and automation have come together to create the phenomenon of ‘techlash’. We talk to Council members about the implications for their own businesses and the lessons that communicators can learn from the way in which the technology sector is responding to techlash.

We’re also beginning to see greater scrutiny of the role that CEOs should play in external communications, against a backdrop of issues such as pay ratio reporting, gender inequality, shrinking CEO tenures and the ‘celebrity leader’. In this edition, we explore Council members’ playbook for CEO-led communications, and look at how the CCO can ensure that these communications build, rather than destroy, reputation value.

The opportunities and challenges that come with communicating in a global context is a theme we’ve examined in past editions. In this sitting, we ask Council members how they strike the right balance between global and local messaging and narratives, and how they keep a finger on the pulse of their reputation (or reputations) around the world.

Lastly, we’ve introduced some new, ‘quickfire’ sections, in which we analyse Council members’ views on a number of contentious, topical talking points, such as the death of CSR, the distraction posed by social media, the need to pick a side in a polarising society, and whether consumers will overlook poor corporate behaviour if the price is right

I hope you enjoy this edition of the Reputation Council report. Please do get in touch if you’d like to find out more about any of the issues covered or discuss how they might affect your own business.

Milorad Ajder
Global Service Line Leader
Corporate Reputation

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